In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, 24 adults aged 54 to 84, whose forearm skin showed significant sun damage, were treated with a topical ointment that increases sensitivity to light and then given laser therapy.
The treatment, called photodynamic therapy, increased collagen levels in the skin and produced other changes that are known to improve the skin's appearance, the researchers said.
Photodynamic therapy has been used as a treatment for precancerous lesions and for some types of skin cancer, but little research had been conducted into its use in what the Michigan researchers called "appearance-oriented dermatology".
"This type of therapy has been performed in clinical practice for the past few years but we've never had detailed molecular evidence for why it may work," said associate professor of dermatology and lead author of the study, Jeffrey Orringer.
More tests are needed before the simple-sounding treatment is used to rejuvenate faces that have seen too much sun.
"Future studies are needed to gauge whether the improvements shown in the forearm skin in this study can be replicated on facial skin," the researchers said in a report on the study's findings, published Monday in the Archives of Dermatology, an American Medical Association journal.